PALATINE – The Class 8A first-round playoff match between host Palatine and Downers Grove South on Oct. 28 featured an interesting trivial tidbit to throw into the pregame notes.
It pitted a pair of teams that ran the table to capture their respective division titles.
The seventh-seeded Pirates won five in a row behind junior reserve quarterback Tommy Elter to earn their second straight Mid-Suburban West crown. Elter stepped in for senior Grant Dersnah in the lone loss at Glenbrook South in Week 4 when Dersnah was lost for the season with a lower leg injury.
No. 26 seed Downers Grove South rolled off six in a row after an 0-3 start to earn its first West Suburban Gold title since 2013.
Which team’s winning streak – as well as its season – would continue after 48 minutes of play?
Palatine was the answer with its ability to come up with big plays on offense and big stops on defense in earning a 31-23 win at Chic Anderson Stadium to advance to the second round.
“It doesn’t matter how you get the win at this point, it’s that you get the win,” Palatine coach Corey Olson said. “We battled all game long and we did some real good things. They’re a good football team. They were physical, they were tough. They got in their heavy [offensive] packages and kind of bullied us around a little bit and we made some adjustments down the stretch and that helped us a little bit. Then it came down to a fourth-down play and we made the stop. I was proud of my seniors, proud of my defense and proud of my team.”
Palatine (9-1) adjusted when it trailed the visiting Mustangs 13-7 after Chris Williams’ 79-yard kickoff return. The Pirates scored two touchdowns in the final 2:35 of the first half – a 1-yard Nate Branch run off a direct snap from center followed by a 42-yard TD strike from Elter (13 of 22, 212 yards) to Thomas Coroneos with 55 ticks left that gave them a 21-13 advantage at the break.
After a 39-yard Jaden Palmer field goal pulled Downers South (6-4) to within 21-16, T.J. Luckett had a 5-yard TD jaunt with 1:16 left in the third quarter for a 28-16 Pirates lead heading into the fourth.
And after a 17-yard Ryan Dawson TD pass to Brandon Amaniampong closed Downer South’s deficit to 28-23 with 8:07 left, an eight-play drive led to a Connor May 27-yard field goal that put the Palatine lead back up to 31-23 with 4:45 left.
The Pirates’ defense then stopped the Mustangs’ last shot as Downers South got to the Palatine 5. Palatine stood its ground with a pair of tackles for loss by Trey Widlowski and JD Wardle on Deon Davis (26 carries, 105 yards) that pushed Downers South back to the 9. Dawson then threw an incomplete pass.
Dominick Ball’s 58-yard scoring jaunt got Palatine on the board at the 3:45 mark of the first quarter. Ball finished with 142 yards on 21 carries.